THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK FOUR:  THE BOOK of SCIENCE

 

CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT 

 

          Even before Governor Molina's foot touched ground at the port of Progreso, the details of this arrangement were in the possession of Ignacio Bravo. How had this occurred? The territorial commander greeted and evaluated almost all incoming officers, save those few who reached the southern outpost by sea... both those assigned to him, and many who would continue to Payo Obispo. He had found a few who were quite willing to agree that General Vega's proximity to both the British and indians could be a source of difficulty... not yet a treason that would require direction action but, rather, a matter requiring constant scrutiny. The Ministry of War had also posted some officers to Payo Obispo who had served in Santa Cruz del Bravo and a few of these also served as Bravo's eyes and ears on the southern frontier.

          Such men were also paid small sums from time to time; these monies being granted and received in the name of patriotism, not espionage.

          With this information in his hands, Bravo telegraphed Mexico City, advising of an offensive by sublevados in the coastal regions opposite Cozumel and southward to the old Maya fortress of Tuloom and requesting the temporary assignment of the man most suitable to put it down... his old ally Victoriano Huerta. It was a move involving some risk, for the Colonel was out of favor. His service under General Vega had had an ignominious end... disgusted by the unkempt appearance of his subordinate, his drinking... and especially embarrassed by the bloody techniques with which he attempted to pacify the indians of the south... Vega had petitioned the War Minister and President Diaz to have this blight removed from the pristine shores of Chetumal Bay. A lean period had followed for Victoriano Huerta, for his methods were those truly appreciated only in such times as the dictates of civilization are supplanted by those of expediency. The Colonel was bounced from post to post, sometimes utilized in chasing bandits, but always under suspicion. With no report of unrest it is doubtful whether the Ministry would have even deemed Bravo's request worth the price of Huerta's passage, but so heavy lay the Porfirian peace that even the smallest challenge to it must be met by a massive and unforgiving response.

          Victoriano Huerta, consequently, disembarked at Vigia Chico, rubbing his hands with glee at the anticipation of a fight, and rode with the first convoy of a million pesos' worth of arms and construction equipment Bravo had requested as an afterthought... for Mexico would surely see the virtue in equipping their premiere Indian fighter with the tools of his trade.

          Raising, now, his cognac glass, Huerta smiled his agreement as Ignacio Bravo outlined the details of his proposal. He had accepted his assignment with some trepidation for, while he trusted Bravo as little as he trusted anyone, and relished the prospect of wiping out the little colony of Tuloom, he feared that he would thereafter be forgotten, left to wander the old Mayan ruins with a small delegation of misfits under his command like a pistol left uncleaned, unfired and forgotten in a drawer – the prey to spiders. Such speculations worried him, and he had even begun to inquire into the previously unthinkable existence of civilian life; this call to arms came as one last opportunity to gain the rank he'd felt had unfairly been denied to him... or to at least exult in one last proper slaughter before hanging up his gun.

          "What about settling accounts with Vega once and for all," Huerta suggested. "I know men who'd do this job for nothing..."

          "The sublevados will deal with Vega," Bravo responded curtly. "Your function, your only function, is to lead them to Xcalak and back again when they have accomplished their duty. No Mexican under my command is to be seen south of Bacalar. I have good reasons for this," he added, "and these are orders."

          "As you wish." Huerta made one last appeal. "Certainly we may be fired upon and if... if, General, wouldn't it be proper to pursue the sublevados, kill them and burn their villages?"

          "No. You have your orders."

          Huerta sighed and, even after being assured that the hated southern General would be properly fixed, he departed in some distress over his inability to get his way. Bravo now summoned Miguel Chankik. The sorcerer had been seldom seen and, in fact, all but forgotten since the disappearance of Padre Juliano and the conversion of the church into a prison barracks.

          "It is time to show your loyalty," Bravo declared, outlining a few details of the plan, paying careful attention to emphasize that Vega's liberality extended only to a few of his favorite chiefs, and that the nocturnal commerce would not be impacted but rather expanded once the responsibility for territorial rule had been consolidated in his, Bravo's hands.

          "It is as you wish... only I distrust Huerta," Chankik protested.

          "He is not to come within ten kilometers of Xcalak. He's been given orders."

          "If General Chelem and the Mexican general control the chicle trade to the south, why are their lives to be spared?"

          "Their time will come. I am setting this matter in a way by which my hand and that of all the mazehualob of the north will never be detected. When word of the ambush arrives in Mexico City, no less than two thousand of my men will be authorized to sweep down into the southeast. Chelem will be destroyed and his authority given to one more aligned towards ourselves. As for Vega," Bravo smirked, "that man has offended me far more deeply than mere death would suffice to correct. I will leave him alive, to experience all the torments that the withering of his power will bring. Is that not what the kings, the ahauob of the old cities did to their rivals?"

          "Sometimes," conceded Chankik, "if they chose not to eat them. Only... when this is done and Victoriano Huerta is turned loose on the north, I will come to you and, that time, the favor granted shall be mine.

 

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